Study Guide

The Fountainhead Philosophical Views: Individualism

By Ayn Rand

Philosophical Views: Individualism

Guy Francon, its designer, had known how to subordinate himself to the mandatory canons which generations of craftsmen behind him have proved inviolate [....] (1.4.3)

There are two harmful ideas here that Roark has to battle against the entire novel: the idea that people need to "subordinate" themselves to the crowd, and the idea that the past is always right. Guy Francon fails from the start.

He winced a little when he was addressed as "Hey, Modernistic." (1.9.15)

Snyte embraces nicknames in his workplace, but not in a cool way. Here Roark must deal with having his identity effaced, or erased, by Snyte's insistence on identifying his workers by their "style" as opposed to something like, oh, their names.

"This is the time to merge his self in a great current, in the rising tide which is approaching to sweep us all, willing or unwilling, into the future." (1.9.57)

Toohey uses a lot of water imagery when he speaks about mankind. Here he uses water to represent both the passage of time and the collective group of people that all individuals should "merge" into.

"If I found a job, a project, an idea or a person I wanted—I'd have to depend on the whole world. Everything has strings leading to everything else. We're all so tied together." (1.12.70)

Dominique doesn't often speak in symbols or metaphors, but she uses the image of a net to express her distaste for the crowd.

Catherine had said it, he was selfish; everybody was selfish; it was not a pretty thing, to be selfish, but he was not alone in it [....] (1.15.49)

Keating's internal monologues provide some of the most interesting stylistic experiments in the book. Here we get the repetition of "selfish" and a series of choppy phrases to indicate Keating's inner turmoil.

"Do you have to be quite so fanatical and selfless about it?"
"What?" Roark asked incredulously. (1.15.170-1)

In both this book and her later novel, Atlas Shrugged, Rand liked to play around with language and experiment with opposites. Her heroes often take "bad" words and make them "good." Here a man accuses Roark of being "selfless," when Roark sees himself as being selfish. Selfishness is actually good. Selflessness is bad. Confused yet?

"Only when you can feel contempt for you own priceless little ego, only then can you achieve that true, broad peace of selflessness, the merging of you spirit with the vast collective spirit of mankind." (2.9.38)

Toohey gets a bit redundant and repetitive when talking about individualism and how terrible it is. Here, he tells his hapless niece Katie to abandon her ego and "merge" with the "collective," meaning the crowd or mob.

"To mortify the soul is the only act of virtue" (2.9.38)

Toohey uses a good bit of religious imagery and diction in his speech, which helps to emphasize how he is a lot like a religious leader in his speeches and his philosophy.

"Man's proper posture in a house of God is on his knees. Nobody in his right mind would kneel within Mr. Roark's temple." (2.12.12)

Toohey might be trying to insult Roark here, but Rand is trying to have her readers see how Roark's temple is actually the better option here.

"Howard Roark built a temple to the human spirit. He saw man as strong, proud, clean, wise and fearless." (2.12.200)

Dominique's trial confession (at Roark's first trial) is one of the few times in the book she speaks honestly before a large crowd. We get confirmation that her views on individualism are the same as Roark's.

"You must stop wanting anything. You must forget how important Miss Catherine Halsey is. Because, you see, she isn't." (2.13.111)

Toohey raises self-sacrifice and self-denial to a virtue, in a sort of demented adoption of Christian doctrine. It was views like this that philosophers like Nietzsche and later Rand herself pitted themselves against.

"You never wanted me to be real. You never wanted anyone to be. But you didn't want to show it." (3.2.142)

Dominique accuses Keating here of basically not wanting to deal with people at all. Which is a bit odd given how much Keating seems like an extrovert. But Keating wouldn't mind empty shades surrounding him and making him look good...but not actual, messy people.

"Every building is like a person. Single and unrepeatable." (3.5.230)

Roark's views on buildings basically sums up the book's theme of individualism.

"If I asked you to keep your soul—would you understand why that's much harder?" (4.8.70)

There's a surprising amount of discussion about "souls" in this book, mostly from Toohey and Roark. These two men seem to get at the heart of the matter that everyone talks around, and their battle for people's "souls" helps to cast Toohey in the role of the devil and Roark in the role of a Christ figure.

"And isn't that the root of every despicable action? Not selfishness, but precisely the absence of self." (4.11.58)

Roark completely nails the horror of Toohey's philosophy here. Toohey isn't just advocating selfless behavior, but the entire absence of self. He wants individuals totally beaten down.